The Dirty Extractive Underbelly of Clean Energy

Section of the official Oakey – Brisbane aeronautical Visual Terminal Chart with some high voltage power lines highlighted. The squiggly lines are the high voltage power lines.

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Greens advocating a clean energy “revolution” rarely pause to consider the enormous increase in mining activity which would have to occur to support their new green economy.

The Limits of Clean Energy
If the world isn’t careful, renewable energy could become as destructive as fossil fuels.

BY JASON HICKEL | SEPTEMBER 6, 2019, 8:51 AM

We need a rapid transition to renewables, yes—but scientists warn that we can’t keep growing energy use at existing rates. No energy is innocent. The only truly clean energy is less energy.

In 2017, the World Bank released a little-noticed report that offered the first comprehensive look at this question. It models the increase in material extraction that would be required to build enough solar and wind utilities to produce an annual output of about 7 terawatts of electricity by 2050. That’s enough to power roughly half of the global economy. By doubling the World Bank figures, we can estimate what it will take to get all the way to zero emissions—and the results are staggering: 34 million metric tons of copper, 40 million tons of lead, 50 million tons of zinc, 162 million tons of aluminum, and no less than 4.8 billion tons of iron.

In some cases, the transition to renewables will require a massive increase over existing levels of extraction. For neodymium—an essential element in wind turbines—extraction will need to rise by nearly 35 percent over current levels. Higher-end estimates reported by the World Bank suggest it could double.

The same is true of silver, which is critical to solar panels. Silver extraction will go up 38 percent and perhaps as much as 105 percent. Demand for indium, also essential to solar technology, will more than triple and could end up skyrocketing by 920 percent.

And then there are all the batteries we’re going to need for power storage. To keep energy flowing when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing will require enormous batteries at the grid level. This means 40 million tons of lithium—an eye-watering 2,700 percent increase over current levels of extraction.

Read more: https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/09/06/the-path-to-clean-energy-will-be-very-dirty-climate-change-renewables/

I suspect the reason people don’t grasp the scale of the effort which would be required to go renewable, is that very few people are aware of how much electricity modern living consumes.

FP goes on to suggest people really need to reduce energy consumption; but how practical is that? There really aren’t that many opportunities to reduce energy consumption without significantly impacting our quality of life. All the things we take for granted, laptops, phones, big TVs, home heating, affordable clothes, are the products of a high energy civilisation.

If you ever take a flight in a light aircraft, one of the first things you notice is how many high voltage power lines are visible on aeronautical maps, and how visible they are from low altitude (see the image at the top of the page). Long lines snaking through the wilderness, leading from cities and towns to enormous power stations which dominate the landscape, usually in remote places far away from the cities whose energy needs they supply. Great landmarks, all very visible from the air. But from the ground you just can’t see the sheer scale of our fossil fuel energy infrastructure unless you go and look for it.

If more people took the trouble to have a look for themselves, to see what it takes to provide us with the electricity we take for granted, I suspect they would understand why the green energy “revolution” has not happened yet, and why it likely never will.

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Mark Broderick
September 7, 2019 6:17 am

Great job….again….

Sunny
September 7, 2019 6:41 am

Its a never ending scam, oil is bad, solar is bad, wind farms are bad, breathing is bad, not forgetting nuclear power which has a near endless supply of power, is bad… The news is constantly full of bad news which has made a lot people anxious about what life will be like…

siamiam
Reply to  Sunny
September 7, 2019 7:30 am

WE do need to reduce per capita CO2 production.
To keep temp rise to 1.5C or less only requires reducing the U.S. economy to post war levels.
The Civil War that is.
There is mass insanity out there IMHO.

Reply to  siamiam
September 7, 2019 8:16 am

We don’t need to reduce per capita Co2 emission

There are far more urgent problems facing mankind than a trace gas essential for agriculture

Like an education system that leads to people believing it is…

Karl Wagoner
Reply to  Leo Smith
September 10, 2019 12:28 pm

Agreed.

BobW in NC
Reply to  siamiam
September 7, 2019 8:58 am

“…reduce per capita CO2 production?” Oh, absolutely! Right now, the US provides 13.3% of all anthropogenic CO2, which is a “big deal” to “greenies.” (All following CO2 data from a recent WUWT post*) Oh, wait: Anthropogenic CO2 only constitutes 3.4% of all CO2 emitted (96.6% is natural), so we, the US, only contribute ~0.5% to that figure. Whew! Oh, but then, there’s more bad news for greenies: B/c CO2 is a greenhouse gas (GHG), it only adds 4% to the GHG load – water vapor makes up about 95% of GHGs, so the US CO2 contributing to global warming is vanishingly small.

And the greenies want to remake our economy to reduce our CO2 production… Really.

*https://wattsupwiththat.com/2019/06/12/study-cattle-methane-is-a-moooot-point-in-global-climate/

BobW in NC
Reply to  BobW in NC
September 7, 2019 9:05 am

Sorry, the link is wrong.

BobW in NC
Reply to  BobW in NC
September 7, 2019 9:19 am

The link I provided is wrong. Here is the correct WUWT link for the data I cited. Credit to Dr. Tim Ball.
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2019/05/01/a-story-of-co2-data-manipulation/

Reply to  BobW in NC
September 7, 2019 6:25 pm

May I borrow this post, with the correction taken care of and the who thing correctly attributed as a facebook post? I want to see if it will get me banned, and maybe educate a few people.

BobW in NC
Reply to  biker in Texas
September 8, 2019 11:37 am

Absolutely, Biker! Be curious to see what the responses might be. Have fun!

Pyramid of control
Reply to  BobW in NC
September 9, 2019 10:49 am

“It is true that human emissions of CO2 are small compared with natural sources. But the fact that CO2 levels have remained steady until very recently shows that natural emissions are usually balanced by natural absorptions. Now slightly more CO2 must be entering the atmosphere than is being soaked up by carbon “sinks”.

The consumption of terrestrial vegetation by animals and by microbes (rotting, in other words) emits about 220 gigatonnes of CO2 every year, while respiration by vegetation emits another 220 Gt. These huge amounts are balanced by the 440 Gt of carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere each year as land plants photosynthesise.”

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11638-climate-myths-human-co2-emissions-are-too-tiny-to-matter/amp/

Bryan A
Reply to  siamiam
September 7, 2019 8:02 pm

As the “Emissions per Capita” column from the following EIA chart shows, 2017 U.S. per capita CO2 emissions were 15.8 metric tons per person, their lowest levels in 67 years (since 1952) as reported July 7, 2018. The U.S. is already almost back to WWII levels.
A 20% reduction from current levels would be a per capita reduction of 3.1 metric tons per person or around 1.05 billion tons for the nation.
China emitted 10.8 billion tons in 2017 accounting for just under 30% of global emissions.
If the U.S. cut 1.05 (20%) emissions over 3 years, it would have ZERO effect of total global CO2 levels or temperatures as China will increase their emission levels by greater than 1 billion tons over that time.

Rod
Reply to  siamiam
September 7, 2019 8:37 pm

CO2 rises because temperatures rise, not the other way around.

ozspeaksup
Reply to  Sunny
September 7, 2019 8:05 am

youre getting it;-)
Club of Rome
the idea was to make Man the “enemy” of man
so making everything that enables society to work, a bad thing to feel guilty about, is exactly what they intend

good article , using the production already here and making that better for less energy etc input sure beats the hell outta the zero carbon stunt
hard to write that(Zero carbon) without laughing

Bruce Ploetz
Reply to  Sunny
September 7, 2019 8:07 am

People are bad, the existential self-loathing and angst of the post WWII literary generation carried forward long past the sell-by date.

But imagine being in the 1800s and trying to calculate how many horses would be needed in the 1900s. Already the streets of large cities had horse-pucky issues, imagine if the population doubled? You would have to start using sleds…

In the 1800s they couldn’t imagine the technology of the 1900s and today we can’t imagine the technology that will solve the problems of the 2100s. Not possible. All these calculations are static linear projections based on fixed estimates and existing technology. But the real world is dynamic, impossible to model unless every single physical law that applies and every interaction is known and the initial conditions are perfectly known. You can’t model disruptive technology.

Energy, climate and population issues will be solved by the free market. Impossible to plan for it. When the cost of a resource goes up high enough that less popular alternative resources become cost-effective, ambitious entrepreneurs will take advantage of the situation and create even less costly alternatives that we can’t even imagine today. Space resources? Cold fusion? Household thorium nukes? Who knows?

Only thing we really know for certain is that it won’t be wind and solar.

HotScot
Reply to  Bruce Ploetz
September 7, 2019 2:40 pm

Bruce Ploetz

Excellent post, of the obvious, we all invariably forget.

Latitude
Reply to  Sunny
September 7, 2019 9:10 am

scam….1st world CO2 is deadly…..3rd world CO2 is god’s gift

Mark Broderick
September 7, 2019 7:11 am

“Justin Haskins: Sleep well, Ocasio-Cortez, and consider having a family. Here’s the truth about our planet”

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/justin-haskins-sleep-well-ocasio-cortez-science-shows-that-climate-change-not-catastrophic-and-actually-has-benefits

““Scientists fear that there’s a potential that a lot of diseases could escape these melted glaciers, things that were frozen for thousands of years, and that they’re going to get into our water,” Ocasio-Cortez said, “and that humans could contract them, and they are going to be diseases that are thousands of years old that have vectors that we are not prepared for, that we have never seen.”

griff
September 7, 2019 7:18 am
tonyb
Editor
Reply to  griff
September 7, 2019 11:52 am

Griff

No, many modern mines do NOT use solar power, it is at the very experimental stage because of the enormous amounts of energy mines need, much mining goes on underground and much mining is not in places where solar energy is practical i.e third world rather than first world locations

as far as the de grussa mine is concerned it only came into being due to a very large subsidy from the Australian govt. It as produced around half the energy expected and there is currently a legal dispute as the diesel generators needed to keep the energy enterprise running failed, thereby shutting down the solar production.

I am not against solar power per se and Australia-unlike the UK-is an obvious place where it should work. however as the article explains the renewables industry has large downsides as regards extraction and it did not mention that the rare earths needed are often under Chinese control, cause huge environmental damage and much of the labour works under slave type conditions.

tonyb

Rocketscientist
Reply to  tonyb
September 7, 2019 12:39 pm

Given the current state of low resolution thinking, there are many places on the planet that solar “should work”, but oddly it doesn’t work as promised. One can only surmise the resolution on their thinking needs further refinement.

Why is there any place on earth where it should work as promised, as it was intended for use in outer space? There are many places on earth where it works poorly and inefficiently.

Bryan A
Reply to  Rocketscientist
September 7, 2019 9:06 pm

Except of course on the roofs of Wal-Mart’s where they exhibit their propensity for pyrotechnics

Patrick MJD
Reply to  griff
September 7, 2019 5:43 pm

“The solar power station will be fully integrated with the existing 20MW diesel-powered power station at DeGrussa which is owned and operated by Kalgoorlie Power Systems.”

Rather than replacing diesel, this solar plant is just used to reduce diesel use, which makes sense but covers a lot of land. The article is 4 years old.

Now something more recent;

https://thewest.com.au/business/sandfire-resources-degrussa-centre-of-french-german-solar-row-ng-b881207690z

The company received a AU$21m grant from a Federal Govn’t agency.

Bryan A
Reply to  griff
September 7, 2019 9:09 pm

Interesting prototype dumper…take a trip or two up and down the pit and have to take 7 times longer to recharge than a 100Kw Tesla before you can make the next couple trips

Ron Long
September 7, 2019 7:21 am

Good for you, Eric, nothing like a Reality Check for dreamers! As a mining exploration geologist I am sure the required raw materials can be extracted, unless the current NIMBY attitude persists, then the only game is to mine Africa.

Latitude
September 7, 2019 7:22 am

why not just call them all on what an obvious s c a m it is?

blaming the countries that are not causing it….and totally ignoring the countries that are

icisil
September 7, 2019 7:29 am

Mark Dice should do one of his man-on-the-street interviews asking passerbys if they think it’s moral for polluting extractive industries that utilize child labor under slave-like conditions to supply the auto and energy industries. And then of course after they’ve agreed, spring it on them about the child labor in African nickel mines for EV batteries, and the horrific pollution in China from mining rare earth metals for wind turbines.

icisil
Reply to  icisil
September 7, 2019 8:04 am

That was supposed to be the “Should we ban sodium chloride” interview.

TonyL
Reply to  icisil
September 7, 2019 11:17 am

Brawndo – It has what plants crave. It’s got electrolytes!
Women arguing for the elimination of Women’s Sufferage. It is one of the rare Self-Proving Arguments.

Unfortunately, these people can vote, and they do. Do not wonder why things are the way they are. This is why.

bob alou
Reply to  icisil
September 7, 2019 12:53 pm

The STUPID, it hurts.

HotScot
Reply to  bob alou
September 7, 2019 2:58 pm

bob alou

Keep it rolling.

Evidently scientists should free the Loch Ness Monster they found.

I mean, seriously? That guy knows more than MI5, MI6, the CIA and the FBI combined. Aint no way they’ll ever catch that sucker!

Patrick MJD
Reply to  icisil
September 7, 2019 6:08 pm

Trump kids killing a Triceratops because they are rich??!

George T
September 7, 2019 7:30 am

The absurdity of this debate is beyond the pale. Obviously, the “unintended consequences” have not been considered. Whenever have politicians ever considered the unintended consequences of their decisions and policies? I am frankly so sick of this green energy and climate change debate. If ever these lunatics gain any power that would allow them to implement these ridiculous policies on green energy the “unintended consequences” might be much more than they bargain for. When the lights go out, these “self-absorbed” types who give or gave no thought whatsoever to what powers everyday life will get a wake-up call they are not expecting. Green energy and this CO2 debates is pathetic. Get on with life and leave this alone. Ridiculous to think we can alternate this by spending trillions to switch our society to 100% renewables in 10-12 years as suggested by these mindless politicians. Beam me up Scotty, there is no intelligent life down here.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  George T
September 7, 2019 12:11 pm

” I am frankly so sick of this green energy and climate change debate.”

What debate?

Bob Cherba
September 7, 2019 7:35 am

I live in Pima County, AZ, the Copper State. A mining company has been trying to open a copper mine south of Tucson for about 15 years. The county government is fighting it along with all the usual environmental activists. This same government and the environmental groups all support Agenda 21, the Paris “accords,” elimination of fossil fuels, etc., etc. Tucson is the home of the University of Arizona, which is as liberal and politically correct as they come, but apparently they are intellectually unable to connect solar panels, windmills, and electric cars with the mining required to provide the necessary raw materials. I’m only an old, retired, electrical engineer, but the ignorance (stupidity?) among the climate “crisis,” anti-mining and anti-fossil fuel “intelligentsia” never fails to surprise and amaze me.

Bubba Cow
Reply to  Bob Cherba
September 7, 2019 8:44 am

Mark Mills wrote a good piece about the resources needed and the “magical thinking” –

https://www.manhattan-institute.org/green-energy-revolution-near-impossible

Reply to  Bob Cherba
September 8, 2019 5:21 pm

Jonny Carson had a woman on his show that won an award for hwr winnibg rose. Johnny asked her what she did that was so different which helped her win the award. She sai that all she did was talk to the rose everyday. Of course there was laughter including Johonny. Lets see, when the woman talked to hwr rose, just what was she blessing the rose with? Oh yes CO2. So, if we hunans are planning on growing more food, wouldn’t we need more CO2? Last night on TV, I listened to a scientist who was addressing the issue of climate change. He said that if we could implement the policies of the greenies, it would take 30 years just to move the needle .7 of a degree.

fah
September 7, 2019 7:42 am

If we
dig precious things from the land
we will invite disaster

Near the day of Purification
there will be cobwebs spun back and forth
in the sky

A container of ashes will one day be thrown from the sky
which will burn the land
and boil the oceans.

Koyaanisqatsi (life out of balance)

Ron Long
Reply to  fah
September 7, 2019 8:23 am

fah, whatever you were doing before you wrote this, stop it.

Eric H
Reply to  fah
September 7, 2019 9:12 am

BTW it is :
A container of ashes MIGHT one day be thrown from the sky

Bryan A
Reply to  Eric H
September 7, 2019 11:22 pm

The container of ash (purified Yellow Cake) is an Atomic Bomb and has already been dropped from the sky back in August 1945 and Did burn land and boil the Ocean in the Hiroshima Bay

TG McCoy
September 7, 2019 7:45 am

Had a friend of mine who was flying a DC-4 airtanker some years ago in the Kings Canyon area of California had most of the vertical stabilizer and rudder removed by an unmarked and camouflaged powerline in the area.They survived and were able to land sucessfully. The local Greens thought the powerline was unsightly and go to PG&E to: Remove the orange balls on the lines . darken the lines, and lower them.-No one told the FAA…
Green Power is more deadly than nuclea rin the civilan world. Third and fourth gen are here if the Green are wanting clean uninterruptable power – and are sincere this is it..
“Happiness is a warm fast breeder.” old Handford area T-shirt.

Bruce Cobb
September 7, 2019 7:59 am

“If the world isn’t careful, renewable energy could become as destructive as fossil fuels.”
Whoa there, Climate Cassandra, let’s back the truth truck up, shall we? The word “destructive” is a loaded one, and is essentially meaningless. Anything humans do just to live on the planet could be described as “destructive”. Fossil fuels are by far, the most efficient, and least costly way of providing energy with the possible exception of nuclear, in some cases. Renewables use huge amounts of land to provide expensive, unreliable energy which then requires fossil fuels for backup (so what’s the point?). They require additional infrastructure, including roads and transmission lines, with numerous environmental impacts which conveniently get ignored. And all that is even before considering all the mining, transport, and manufacture of a way less than optimal energy source we don’t even need, and gigantic amounts of concrete required.

September 7, 2019 8:02 am

Has there been an explanation of how much carbon would be emitted by constructing high-speed rail lines vs keeping the existing air travel system?

And remember rail infrastructure has about a 30 year operational life, so if you compare it to a 30 year aircraft life plus plane operating cost you have a pretty good comparison.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  David H Dennis
September 7, 2019 5:59 pm

Politicians here in Aus have been bleating on about high speed rail (HSR) between the two busiest cities currently served by air, Sydney – Melbourne for decades. That’s about 900kms centre to centre, currently with two lengths of asphalt at each end to allow planes to take off and land and nothing in between. The price of travelling via air is cheap albeit time consuming (Security etc).

HSR would require very expensive infrastructure to allow the speeds claimed for the whole length of the line, as well as being doubled up and cross-over sections. Japanese and EU cities are always cited as examples with one factor not mentioned and that is distance between stops. It’s might be quicker (Meaning less check-in times) but it won’t be cheaper. It’s really pie in the sky stuff.

Paul of Alexandria
Reply to  David H Dennis
September 7, 2019 7:07 pm

Before going on about high-speed rail in the U.S. please make the obvious comparison between Japan/Europe and the U.S. regarding distances. And who owns all of the property in between terminals. Any national high-speed rail in either Europe or Japan could fit into California with room to spare. The land costs for the right-of-ways alone in the U.S. would cost in the tens of billions of dollars.

And no you can’t use any existing rail rights of way, they’re loaded down with freight trains and are totally unsuitable for high-speed rail anyways.

-d
September 7, 2019 8:09 am

Don’t forget — the only proven source of energy and chemicals needed to mine, refine, smelt, and assemble all those materials is fossil fuel, and mostly petroleum. The electrical power from solar, wind, and hydro has never been used to do all those things.
And you’re going to have to do it all again in 25 years — the mean lifespan for PV cells and wind turbines.

Marty
September 7, 2019 8:11 am

“The only truely clean energy is less energy.”

Does this guy even grasp what he is saying?

First of all just why does energy need to be clean and clean by who’s definition? I mean wind mills are considered clean but they kill birds and bats, and to build them you have to strip mine rare earths in distant countries and they are ugly and despoil the landscape. And they require clear cutting to build access roads and they leave tons of concrete in the ground to anchor them. But they are considered clean. Go figure. But let’s leave that aside. Even though it’s a awfully funny definition of clean.

I don’t want less energy. Less energy means a drop of living standards, people losing their jobs, increased poverty, little children and puppies crying in the night because they are sick and hungry, and lots of other awful stuff. Big time awful stuff. On the other hand more cheap energy means prosperity and people having the spare money and leisure to pursue their higher dreams, raise happy families, and generally have the excess needed for the pursuit of happiness. Whatever that means.

Here a great idea. Why don’t these “less is more” people just shut up, go live in a cave somewhere, and leave the rest of us alone to rape the planet as we see fit? I promise you we’ll do less environmental damage in the long run than they will.

Gordon Dressler
September 7, 2019 8:20 am

I have an idea: let’s mandate that all the energy required to mine, transport, reduce/smelt the ore, process the resulting metals to final necessary quality, disposition/sequester the refining waste (gas, liquid and solid), and then manufacture the output metals into the components necessary for wind turbines and solar PV panels and their supporting structures and their supporting electrical wirings into the existing grids—yeah, all of that–be produced solely from renewable power sources.

This requirement is consistent the green agenda and should insure that we reach zero-emissions nirvana by the 24 century AD.

Clyde Spencer
September 7, 2019 8:31 am

“If the world isn’t careful, renewable energy could become as destructive as fossil fuels.”

The impact of removing liquid and gas fuels with high energy density, by drilling holes, is much less than open pit mining for scarce and low-grade minerals. Also, I suspect that the energy required for the drilling is far less than for blasting and removing rock. That is, one can expect the global energy needs to increase significantly by relying on wind and PV.

KT66
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
September 7, 2019 10:45 am

Drilling is by far the least environment impacting method of producing high density fuels. Modern techniques require only one location to yield dozen of producing wells. This in turn requires only one low impact road to and from that one location. Eventually a safe and efficient pipeline. A true environmentalist should be shouting drill baby drill.

tonyb
Editor
Reply to  KT66
September 7, 2019 11:56 am

KT66

I hear the crowds at the extinction rebellion protests chanting that all the time 🙂

tonyb

September 7, 2019 8:37 am

They also ignore the enormous land space required for deployment and the hazardous waste disposal of used equipment. Both are not environmentally friendly. Wind turbines, solar panels, and associated batteries for intermittency backup cannot be dumped in municipal landfills. Guess who will foot the unplanned bill for disposal?

Another ironic problem is that ramping up production of wind turbines, solar panels, and associated battery power storage will greatly increase fossil fuel CO2 emissions, over and above what is already planned, since this equipment is largely built and installed using fossil fuel power. Not a good way to greatly reduce CO2 emissions quickly. About the only way to do that is severe conservation and associated depressed economies.

DMacKenzie
September 7, 2019 8:53 am

We have to quit using the term “renewable” and call it “weather dependent” at every opportunity. Using the “R” word is taking part in the mental image trickery that word spinners used to spawn the name to start with….

Oldseadog
Reply to  DMacKenzie
September 7, 2019 10:10 am

No, Mac, “renewables” is correct, you have to renew them quite frequently.

Carl Friis-Hansen
Reply to  DMacKenzie
September 7, 2019 10:20 am

Good idea, and on the same subject:
Instead of using the term “CO2 emission”, use “CO2 contribution”

Fran
September 7, 2019 9:08 am

The whole point is not to permit our standard of living to be maintained using ‘renewable’ energy. The greens want to see a peasant economy with less than a billion dirty destructive humans on the earth. Thus, arguments about the real costs are irrelevant to them.

Steve Skinner
September 7, 2019 10:10 am

Blood batteries

Wade
September 7, 2019 10:27 am

Here is the thing: mining rare earth metals needed for “green” power is murder on the environment. Take this neodymium mine which is for wind turbine magnets.
https://youtu.be/t_UdqZdFr-w

The logic of “renewable” power is twisted. The people who say CO2 is evil incarnate think that is acceptable to bulldoze millions of acres of trees to place mined aluminum, mined rare earth metals (like in the youtube video above), glass, and concrete. But the second you try to bulldoze 1/1000th of that for a natural gas pipeline, for instance, this same people will cry, complain, and sue. These people are hypocrites or unthinking morons.

F.LEGHORN
Reply to  Wade
September 8, 2019 8:54 am

To quote a very smart lady – Embrace the power of “and”.

n.n
September 7, 2019 10:34 am

From recovery to reclamation, energy production and conversion is not green, and with a comprehensive perspective, neither are people.

TonyL
September 7, 2019 10:58 am

Here is a question for the troops.
Highly Non-Trivial
We often hear about the danger of disposing of old worn out solar panels. As we know, these panels are loaded with several elements which are necessary for their manufacture, but are quite the pollutant when set loose in the environment.
So how would you recycle a panel?
By “recycle”, I use a strict definition here, to separate out the constitute elements to such a degree and to such purity, that they can re-enter the fabrication and production process and be reused.
Now Assume:
You have unlimited money – Which is to say you are a “green” Government Project.
Can you do it?
Can you design a process which does not generate more waste than it cleans up?
Any Ideas?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  TonyL
September 7, 2019 6:51 pm

Dump them in the acid mine drainage of any convenient abandoned mine, let the sulfuric acid dissolve everything except glass and plastic, and then remove the dissolved metal cations electrolytically downstream, using a still function solar panel for the electricity.

Gary Pearse
September 7, 2019 11:51 am

And the biggest item of all was left off the list! Concrete? No. Infrastructure, factories, transport? No. Fossil fuels to to mine, concentrate, reduce and manufacture all these billions of tons of raw materials!

Hardrock lithium deposits average little more than 1% Li. Nemaska Lithium in Quebec, ~1.5% (under construction) will mine 35 million tonnes of ore to produce 1million tonnes of Li-battery chemical lithium hydroxide monohydrate. Current price under moderate demand is ~$US 12,000/tonne for this product. It has been over $20,000/tonne.

Lithium brines, contain generally 200 -1000ppm Li (SQM brine in Chile contains a remarkable 3500ppm) the brines however contain 16-22% sodium chloride (160,000 -220,000ppm!) as waste and 4-6% potash (KCl) product
A million tonne Li production from 1000ppm brine would make 160million tonnes of sodium chloride (table salt) waste and 40-60 million of potash (KCl – fertilizer). The 40 million of lithium required (75% from brines in future, currently 90%) would make … hold your breath …6.0E+15 or 6000 trillion tonnes of NaCl and ~2 trillion tonnes of potash.

See what were really talking about when you take it to the next level of detail! There is a third and fourth level of detail that would use up all of Miss Ocasio’s 93 trillion just to finance them.

Also note that deposits of rare earths generally contain <1% to 5% (exceptional) rare earth oxides (REO). The highest grades are being mined now but a large expansion would necessitate development of ferrocarbonatites, large igneous carbonate ores that contain ~1.0-2.0% REO. The little secret here is 80%+ of the mineralization is the abundant rare earths Lanthanum and Cerium. Neodymium is normally only 0.25%. Nd is doped with dysprosium which is normally about 0.01% in the ore. Like the salt in the brine example the production of these rare metals means huge over production of Lanthanum and Cerium.

I think a thorough digging down into this would make an excellent article.

Tonyb
Editor
Reply to  Gary Pearse
September 7, 2019 12:17 pm

I agree. We need to see the full picture of extraction and subsequent manufacture of renewables and their ultimate power production.

Also although not rare,rare earths are not common and often located in places where employment laws are non existent and concern for the environment zero. Also the Chinese have the rights to much of the minerals and presumably will drive increasingly hard bargains for its use.

Do you have expertise in the subject or have you taken your information from a web site?

TonybTony

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Tonyb
September 7, 2019 7:19 pm

Tonyb, I’m a geologist and mining processing engineer (have patented hydrometallurgical processes) and have served as a consultant in rare metals, particularly lithium and rare earths projects in Canada, US, Europe, Brazil and Africa. Although quite elderly, my services remain in demand .

tonyb
Editor
Reply to  Gary Pearse
September 7, 2019 11:42 pm

Gary

You sound the ideal person to write the sort of article you describe which looks at all the aspects of green energy from the way the minerals are mined, their rarity, toxicity, who owns them, the environmental impact, their costs right through to the cost of the infrastructure needed for the renewables, the damage the structures can do, the cost effectiveness of their output and how the component parts can be recycled

Personally I do not want exaggeration, obfuscation and slanting of the story, but a good factual account, as that would be much more effective in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the renewable energy systems currently being proposed and built.

tonyb

Gary Pearse
Reply to  tonyb
September 8, 2019 5:39 am

Tonyb

I regret making a big error in my calculations on the salt. I actually woke in the night with the realization . The numbers are corect for the one million tonnes of Li but I multiplied by 40 million instead of 40 for the full amount of salt. The amount of salt for my example should therefore be just over a billion tons.

New brines being developed are well below the 1000ppm Li, though as pretty well all the giants have been found and at current prices production from brines down to 100ppm are considered economic which would produce 10B tons of salt- still considerable but not anywhere near my ridiculous number. Sorry for that.

Gary Pearse
September 7, 2019 11:53 am

Mods my latest ‘contribution’ is entirely technical and 100% apropos. Thanx

Johann Wundersamer
September 7, 2019 12:14 pm

FP –> foreignpolicy.com/ ( FP)

TonyL
Reply to  Johann Wundersamer
September 7, 2019 1:55 pm

“FP –> foreignpolicy.com/ ( FP)”
Syntax error.
Attempting to assign variable “FP” to function “foreignpolicy.com” divided by variable “FP”
Result is the attempt to divide a function by a scalar.
Because the function is not expressed fully as foreignpolicy.com(), the function pointer is assumed.
The specified mathematical operation is not allowed, and is undefined.

Error in foreignpolicy.com/ (FP) <- a : could not find function “/<-”

Try to be more careful.

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Johann Wundersamer
September 7, 2019 9:42 pm

TonyL, good to know you’ll try to be more careful.

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Johann Wundersamer
September 7, 2019 10:56 pm

TonyL,

A slash is a slash is a slash is a …

If you try to use a text delimimeter as a mathematical operator it’s your problem.

Johann Wundersamer
September 7, 2019 1:26 pm

griff September 7, 2019 at 7:18 am

Of course many modern mines use solar power… and electric super dump trucks.

https://www.australianmining.com.au/news/degrussa-mine-turns-to-solar-power-in-40-million-project-2/

https://newatlas.com/komatsu-electric-dump-truck/51377/

Griff, your komatsu-electric-dump-truck is the biggest self-delusion of them all.

Begruendung:

Was auf deiner NEW ATLAS Aussendung https://newatlas.com/komatsu-electric-dump-truck/51377/ nicht gezeigt wird:

Diese electric-dump-trucks werden in der Schweiz eingesetzt um abgebautes Material VOM HANG DER ABBAU GRUBE HINAB ZU TRANSPORTIEREN um das Abbau Material im Tal auf der strasse oder auf der railroad weiter zu transportieren.

– der electric-dump-truck faehrt mit geladener Antriebsbatterie den hang hoch.

– an der Abbau stufe belaedt ein DIESEL BETRIEBENER Bagger den electric-dump-truck.

– der beladene electric-dump-truck rollt mit eigengewicht incl. battery + beladung den hang runter und laedt dabei ueber den retention generator die antriebs battery wieder auf.

– nach abladen der last faehrt der electric-dump-truck mit aufgeladener batterie wieder den hang Hinauf.

___________________________________________________

Es gibt kein perpetuum mobile: die eigentliche Arbeit, die eigentliche energie zufuhr wird auf dem hang verrichtet –

durch den diesel betriebenen bagger!

Tatsaechlich geschieht hier energie verschwendung : der electric-dump-truck muss immer die schwere antriebsbatterie mit schleppen, auch in der ebene nach der entladung.

___________________________________________________

Reason:

What is not shown on your NEW ATLAS broadcast https://newatlas.com/komatsu-electric-dump-truck/51377/:

These electric-dump-trucks are used in Switzerland to transport mined material from the slope of the excavation pit to transport the material into the valley for further transport on the road or on the railroad.

– The electric-dump-truck drives up the slope with a charged battery.

– At the excavation stage, a DIESEL-POWERED wheel-loader loads the excavated material onto the trough of the electric-dump-truck.

– The loaded electric-dump-truck rolls on its own weight including battery + load down the slope while recharging the drive battery via the retention generator.

– after unloading the load, the electric-dump-truck with charged propulsion battery again drives up the slope.

___________________________________________________

There is no perpetuum mobile: the real work, the actual energy supply is done on the slope –

There is no perpetuum mobile: the real work, the actual energy supply is done on the slope –

By the diesel powered wheel-loader!

In fact, energy waste happens here: the electric-dump-truck always has to carry the heavy battery with it, too at ground level after discharge.

Rich Lambert
September 7, 2019 1:29 pm

In addition to the power line maps you can include the wind mill maps. see http://vfrmap.com/

Johann Wundersamer
September 7, 2019 1:37 pm

griff September 7, 2019 at 7:18 am

Of course many modern mines use solar power… and electric super dump trucks.

https://www.australianmining.com.au/news/degrussa-mine-turns-to-solar-power-in-40-million-project-2/

https://newatlas.com/komatsu-electric-dump-truck/51377/

Griff, your komatsu-electric-dump-truck is the biggest self-delusion of them all.

https://youtu.be/VTt125UhyOQ

Begruendung:

Was auf deiner NEW ATLAS Aussendung https://newatlas.com/komatsu-electric-dump-truck/51377/ nicht gezeigt wird:

Diese electric-dump-trucks werden in der Schweiz eingesetzt um abgebautes Material VOM HANG DER ABBAU GRUBE HINAB ZU TRANSPORTIEREN um das Abbau Material im Tal auf der strasse oder auf der railroad weiter zu transportieren.

– der electric-dump-truck faehrt mit geladener Antriebsbatterie den hang hoch.

– an der Abbau stufe belaedt ein DIESEL BETRIEBENER Bagger den electric-dump-truck.

– der beladene electric-dump-truck rollt mit eigengewicht incl. battery + beladung den hang runter und laedt dabei ueber den retention generator die antriebs battery wieder auf.

– nach abladen der last faehrt der electric-dump-truck mit aufgeladener batterie wieder den hang Hinauf.

___________________________________________________

Es gibt kein perpetuum mobile: die eigentliche Arbeit, die eigentliche energie zufuhr wird auf dem hang verrichtet –

durch den diesel betriebenen bagger!

Tatsaechlich geschieht hier energie verschwendung : der electric-dump-truck muss immer die schwere antriebsbatterie mit schleppen, auch in der ebene nach der entladung.

___________________________________________________

Reason:

What is not shown on your NEW ATLAS broadcast https://newatlas.com/komatsu-electric-dump-truck/51377/:

These electric-dump-trucks are used in Switzerland to transport mined material from the slope of the excavation pit to transport the material into the valley for further transport on the road or on the railroad.

– The electric-dump-truck drives up the slope with a charged battery.

– At the excavation stage, a DIESEL-POWERED wheel-loader loads the excavated material onto the trough of the electric-dump-truck.

– The loaded electric-dump-truck rolls on its own weight including battery + load down the slope while recharging the drive battery via the retention generator.

– after unloading the load, the electric-dump-truck with charged propulsion battery again drives up the slope.

___________________________________________________

https://youtu.be/VTt125UhyOQ

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PERPETUUM MOBILE:

There is no perpetuum mobile: the real work, the actual energy supply is done on the slope –

By the diesel powered wheel-loaders!

In fact, energy waste happens here: the electric-dump-truck always has to carry the heavy battery with it, too at ground level after discharge.

Mira
September 7, 2019 9:11 pm

Ii found you on Aletho News
Your not following me around are you !!

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Mira
September 9, 2019 2:40 am

No, Mira. You did NOT find me – on Aletho News.

Good question, after all you found German Words on Aletho News; after all my name rests on a german word!

https://www.google.com/search?q=wundersamer+Aletho+News&oq=wundersamer+Aletho+News&aqs=chrome.

Mira, if you have reason to believe someone cares to follow you around then look somewhere else.

RoHa
September 8, 2019 12:07 am

I can see my house on that map!

Rudolf Huber
September 8, 2019 4:15 am

E-Vehicle enthusiasts like to point at how clean their vehicles are. But CO2 does not know borders and CO2 concentration is not localized. Emit it anywhere on the planet and it soon is everywhere. That, of course, is a problem if you are afraid of such a thing. But where are most vehicle batteries produced? Yes, in China. Almost 3 quarters of them actually and China has one of the dirtiest electricity generation mixes there is on this planet. It’s also the biggest coal consumer – by an order of magnitude tot he second-largest user. If you live in a country that lives on 100% renewable (for the sake of argument), you still drive with the China CO2 backpack and this alone makes you a worse CO2 emitter than a gasoline vehicle.

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